Often there are more sides to a story than just one lurking on the surface. This one begins in New Delhi, 2017. Nine years after the 26/11 terror attacks that made Leopold Café, the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi-Trident, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Chabad House in Mumbai household names. The bitterness does not go away, the memories stay fresh, the wounds are still raw and the scars refuse to heal.
For instance, there’s the Superintendent of Police Vikrant Singh, who ends up landing a slap on the High Commissioner of Pakistan’s face when he meets him at an event. Elsewhere, in Bhopal, five members of the Indian Mujahideen, who had earlier been arrested by Vikrant, break out of the Central Jail. Meanwhile, Vikrant under suspension for the diplomatic disaster is unofficially asked to become a ‘consultant’ to assist the team that is put in place to track the jail busters.
In yet another twist elsewhere, a retired tycoon, a heartbroken ex-soldier and a young woman wrestling with her own demons embark on a journey aboard a cruise liner going from Mumbai to Lakshadweep. Fate, however, has other plans, and the cruise liner is hijacked together with thirty guests, seven crew and ten staff. And these are not your run-of-the-mill skinny Somali pirates. These ones are determined men with Uzis, sophisticated Israeli sub-machine guns, Glock automatic pistols as well as daggers in their boots. These are men who have been in battlefield combat.
‘Ah!’ I muttered to myself. ‘Some of this is way over the top! It cannot happen!’ And then I stumbled on a newspaper report which tells us of an audacious counter-intelligence operation by Indian intelligence. They infiltrate an Islamic State ring to track and finally arrest an Afghan suicide bomber sent to hit Delhi. If you were to go into the details, the plot of Eleventh Hour pales in comparison. Apparently, the Indian ‘plant’ supplies the IS operative with explosives—minus triggers—arranges his accommodation before finally busting the cell in September 2017.
It involves an 18-month-long surveillance operation that takes within its orbit Afghanistan, Dubai and New Delhi. A dozen bombers have been let loose on the region. ‘One of them, an Afghan national in his mid-20s was given New Delhi as his target for a suicide attack. As part of the operation, he got himself admitted to a private engineering college on the outskirts of the capital.’ It is reported that 80 Indian investigators had to be in place to make sure the man did not slip away.Think again! This book is racy and riveting. In his staccato prose Hussain Zaidi is in his best elements.